Posted: 08 Oct, 2019
According to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), 15.9% of all shops and retail outlets in the UK now lie empty. These figures quantify the scale of the challenge facing the UK high street after one of the toughest trading periods since the 2008 recession.
Getting an accurate picture of the real health of the high street is difficult, but through the use of FOI, we managed to gain valuable insight into what local authorities are experiencing. With a total of 418 councils in the UK, our mean average indicates that the total number of retail units that now lie empty stands at 50,578, or an average of 121 empty retail units per council.
There were 319,000 retail businesses in 2018 according to the ONS.1 Given this figure, we believe that the void rate now stands at 15.9% of the total.2
Our figures are in line with those released by the retail analyst firm Springboard, which found that vacancy rates are now running at around 10%.3 Our figures differ in that local authorities under FOI have released them, so arguably they should be more reflective of the reality on the ground, as an empty retail unit does not necessarily mean it’s vacant and available for lease. However, the Springboard figures do point to a more alarming trend with retail footfall continually declining, with it recently announced that the retail sector had experienced the worst footfall figures in six years.4
Retail is one of the most important markets in the UK, with its economic output in 2017 equating to £92.8bn, employing some 2.8mn people and comprising of some 319,000 businesses.5 But 2018 turned into the “year of crisis” for the retail sector. In the first 100 days of 2018, some 18 mid- and large-sized retailers collapsed, impacting more jobs than in the entire year prior – and this has appeared to be the trend during 2019.
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Phil Duffy - Duff and Phelps
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